Thursday, July 27, 2017


I am a writer-slash-author-slash-weaver of dreams-slash-word count monger. By my latest word count research and tax payer funded scientific study, I’ve written easily half a ca-billion words, or as a nameless, quasi-supportive relative by marriage once commented on my writing efforts, “That’s a lot of words.”

“Ya’ think?”

After a while, when the words stack up I have to decide what to do with them. I can send them off to an agent that may or may not have the same attitude as my quasi-supportive relative and will want fifteen percent commission right off the top or DIY.

DIY is code for doing it yourself or don’t imagine yaks. It also means that at some point I have to decide to stuff all those words into a manuscript, have someone tell me how many of those words are misspelled, and then figure out a cover to wrap around the whole steaming heap of words.

Searching around the Internet I’ve noticed that a lot of independent authors like to wrap their words in book covers with headless, legless torso people. It’s just endless, six-packed, muscled abdominal skin that stops just above the genitalia and right below the Adam’s apple. 

My problem is that I don’t write stories about headless, legless torso people. All the people in my books have heads and legs. So cover design can be a bit of a struggle. 

People ask me what I write. Words, people. Words. Oh, you mean genre. My answer to that is yes. 

Inspirational? Yes. Happy day.

Romance? Yes to love.

Historical fiction? Yes, and it’s groovy.

Fantasy? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Children’s Chapter Books? Yes, little dreamers.

Young Adult? Righteous, dude. 

Action Adventure? “Sure thing,” she said breathlessly.

Humor? I’m writing it right now.

The sum total of which is that marketing and cover design is an endless challenge and makes my abs cramp. I’m looking for versatility, imagination, and smart. I know. I know. I’m swimming upstream without legs and arms. But still, I paddle.

My newest project is a sexy (that’s a word that sells stuff) fantasy set in the rural countryside of Central Florida. There’s a gryphon and refugees and magic and a boy (with abs) and a girl (with abs) and . . .

Linda (Abby Normal) Zern

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


**Bobwhite sits next to me in my creative writing class. The only thing that makes Bobwhite angry are people who believe in absolutes. He makes this declaration with absolute certainty. 

It is a declaration that makes me mildly uncomfortable because, of course, I only believe in absolutes.

I absolutely believe that certain teenagers who tell you that they are “ready and able” to drive the family van, will, in fact, run that van off the road at fifty-miles per hour through a barbed wire cow fence—at the first available opportunity--causing four thousand, two hundred dollars worth of damage and an ulcer epidemic.

I absolutely believe that two-year olds, left on the back porch by themselves, when told not to eat the dog food, will eat the dog food after soaking it in the dog’s water.

I absolutely believe that college students, who do not pay taxes, car insurance, tuition, or their own meal allowances, are excited about the re-distribution of wealth—mostly other people’s.

Bobwhite believes that human beings don’t even know why they do what they do, but after they do it, they try to figure out why they’ve done what they did, so they’ll know stuff about why they do what they do for future doings. I don’t pretend to understand that sentence, but it's the kind of thinking that comes from being told that chemistry rules the world. 

He believes that human beings are driven by chemicals, genetics, and reality television, and (for no apparent historical precedent) that the future looks brighter than the past, because of all the information available online, of course. If we can just stuff enough information into people, they will not want to rip-off the old folks' pension plans or sell drugs to the known world. 

I remain skeptical—also menopausal. I believe that thieves with a lot of education are just educated thieves or Enron execs. 

Bobwhite’s basic premise is that human beings have no actual ability to exhibit will power or self-control above that of the average poodle without the ability to Google. 

Wanting to put his theory to the test, I asked him, “Do you mean to tell me that if I get the urge to smash your head in with a brick it won’t be my fault, but a combination of menopausal hormones, urban blight, and Irish angst. 

Bobwhite said, “Exactly.”

When I get into these deep philosophical discussions the other students sit in a semi-circle starring at me to see if I will stroke out. 

Turning to the semicircle of doom I said, “Girls, go get me a brick. I want to test out Bobwhite’s theory.”

They laugh.

I am serious.

Oh, those college kids are so adorable, but they’ve got a lot to learn. It’s true that the two-year old will eat the dog food, but she won’t eat it forever. It’s also true that teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to drive until they’ve joined the army or the Peace Corp. The truest absolute of all is that the fuzzy-wuzzy thinking of the young and freshly educated will sharpen right up as soon as someone they are closely related to decides it’s a hilarious idea to drive around with a fake bomb in the trunk of the family car.  True story. Happened to a friend of mine.

Linda (Absolutely Me) Zern 

** Name has been changed because I am not an absolute dweeb.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A QUICKIE: Postings That Are Short and Sweet

SPACE COAST WRITERS' GUILD MONTHLY MEETING:  The author, Linda L. Zern, singing the praises of active review gathering for your book launch.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Mark Twain wrote a beautiful essay about “Two Ways to See a River.” He complained that by becoming an expert at something and while you do gain knowledge, that expertise comes at the sacrifice of wonder. It’s a beautiful piece of writing because it happens to be true.

Becoming a writer with hundreds of thousands of words in your portfolio is like that. It gets harder and harder to read a book riddled with examples of author intrusion. (See! Says the author! Between the lines--sort of! What I’m telling you in this part of the story is that this is the bad guy, who is so terrible that he eats kittens! I mean it! Nod your head if you get it.) Or when an author uses an excessive use of attributes and adverbs, she interjected snidely, moistly, or urgently.

But it gets worse. You start hearing the flaws not just in the written word but also in the speechifying of regular people you’ve been married to for decades—namely spouse types.

For example:

My husband of thirty-plus years, the world-renowned computer analyst, has an expression he uses over and over again when he’s losing an argument with me. 

He likes to say, “Oh, get off it!” It’s his favorite point to my counter-point. 

All I can think when he uses this phrase during a marital tiff is that the subject ‘you’ is implied, as in, "Oh, you, get off it!"

But doesn't he know that you is a genuinely vague pronoun? So vague that I assume he’s talking to himself and not to me when he uses it. You who? Getting off of what? See the problem?

I can imagine that what he's saying in the heat of the debate is something like this. “Oh, Sherwood, get off it!”

Yeah, how about that, Sherwood? Please note: My husband's first name is Sherwood--like the forest. Crazy right? Get off of that.

And his use of the verb “get,” is also extremely weak in this sentence. Get is one of the weakest of the verbs. My advice to my husband to jazz up his prickly but vague command to me as he goes down in angry flames is to strengthen that puny verb by turning the word get into an action verb of the rip-roaring kind.

“Oh, Sherwood, drive off it!”
“Oh, Sherwood, flip off it!”
“Oh, Sherwood, fling off it!”
“Oh, Sherwood, shove off it!”

While we're at it, what about that pronoun it? What it? Who's it?

Concrete nouns are the building blocks of a rude, thorny sentence, so I’d suggest replacing that pronoun with something sharp-edged and brittle—something resembling a chunk of word cement. 

Maybe something like this:

“Oh, Sherwood, pole vault off that Saguaro cactus.” Or “Oh, Sherwood, shove off that red hot poker.” But this takes us into the land of adjectives and advanced description—and that’s a tightrope I’d rather not walk right now.

So, like Mark Twain, I’ve lost the wonder and awe of my husband’s forceful, manly instructions to me during a verbal brawl, and I can only register the grammar funk of his dopey sentence.

Thank you, Mark Twain, for helping me understand the price of knowledge. And like Mr. Twain, I appreciate the irony of loss and gain. 

“Since those days [as a riverboat captain] I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a "break" that ripples above some deadly disease? Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?” [Mark Twain, “Two Ways to See a River”]

Ahhh, Mr. Twain, those poor doctors, and computer systems analysts . . .

Linda (Grammar Witch) Zern
To Find More of Ms. Zern's Work:

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Our sandbox is sometimes fifteen feet high. There are friendly goats to pet. The swings fit one to twelve children. “Hideouts” and “forts” are freely constructed and outfitted all over the property. Fun is what we do.

There are also snakes, bugs, and fire ants. Branches fall from trees. Animals stampede. Mud, muck, and swamp encroach. Thistles sting. Florida is the semi-tropics after all.

In the spirit of summer high jinks and mud hole jumping, I’ve compiled a Zern Farm release form and a list of pool rules. (Please Note: We don’t have a pool.)


If you come to my house, do NOT wear flip-flops. Your feet will not be protected from random piles of animal dung by your “comfortable” footwear. 

If you come to my house, do NOT wear flip-flops. Fire ants enjoy free rides on flip-flops. It’s a scientific fact.

If you come to my house, do NOT wear flip-flops. Stinging nettles, pigweed, and sand spurs do not respect your “comfortable” footwear. I do not respect your “comfortable” footwear. 

If you come to my house, do NOT wear your brand new, bedazzled superhero t-shirt. Stinging nettles, pigweed, and sand spurs grow in DIRT, which is dirty, also grubby. You will get dirty. Your clothes will get dirty. Dirt will touch you in a myriad of ways. Dress accordingly.

If you come to my house prepare to be booed if you proclaim yourself “bored.” Only boring people (or teenagers) are bored at my house. If you are bored prepare to be given a shovel or a post hole digger and put to work.

If you come to my house prepare to be hot. It’s Florida. Duh.

If you come to my house, understand that animals will be roaming about doing what animals do. Yes, my buck goat stinks. He stinks for a reason. He is not confused as to his gender or life’s work. He lives to eat and make little goats.

If you come to my house be aware that tree bark is scratchy, tree climbing not without hazard, and chiggers live in tree moss. Bring Bandaids.

Random Warnings: 


Don’t make me traumatize you! 

Fight at your own risk.

And if you turn over something to look for worms or beetles or other wiggly creatures then, when you are done, turn that log, stepping stone, or lawn chair back over. Leave things the way you found them.

Sincerely, The Management

Linda (Sharp-Tooth) Zern 

Thursday, July 6, 2017


I’m a writer. I write about life, love, truth, and conflict. I can imagine just about any eventuality given enough time and quiet. It’s a problem. 

When one of my gang is late for a family meeting, dinner, or activity, I can have them stripped naked, bleeding from their temples, and thrown in a ditch before I’ve set the table. I can’t help it. It’s a job hazard. 

My imagination is an excellent asset, except when it’s not. 

When creating a story, an author is encouraged by the gods of writing to take her beloved characters, chase them up a tree, and then throw rocks at them. Sometimes those beloved characters get stuck up in that tree, and the author has to figure out how to get them out of there. If a rock hits them in the head, they fall out of that tree dead.

What? It happens. In my brain.

After writing my first book in the Strandline Story Series (Beyond the Strandline) I had an advanced copy reader email me and ask, "But you're such a nice lady, how can you write such terrible things--and about children?"

Because, when writing apocalyptic grid collapse scenarios there are a lot of people up trees, even children. If the lights should go out, electric quits flowing, and the pumps shut off the world will stop being quite so fast food convenient and friendly. It's said that the US is seventy-two hours away from anarchy because that's when the food runs out. It's a genre that lends itself to all the troubles necessary to write intense, realistic fiction. Food isn't automatic. Water is life and death. Enemies are endless. Sex is serious business--again. 

Prepper fiction is a target rich environment for an author.

Fiction creates an opportunity for readers to explore life events vicariously, to work through trouble and tragedy by looking through the window of a novel into the lives and troubles of characters who've been run up a tree. It is a safe way to prepare, to process, to contemplate possibilities. 

My family thinks I'm a doomsday diva, claiming that I've probably dug a secret bunker someplace, where I've stockpiled huge mounds of dehydrated broccoli. No. But if I had dug a secret bunker, I'd hide it under the foundation of the barn and use old freezers as waterproof storage units, but it would be hard because the water table is pretty high in Florida so I'd have to figure out how to keep my bunker dry . . . 

See? Up a tree, with people throwing rocks.

Don't think it could happen? Neither did the Venezuelans, the Syrians, the Bosnians, Europe after Hitler, the Ukraine after communism . . . 

Linda (Read More Books) Zern 
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